The 2022 FIFA World Cup quarterfinals field is made up of seven regulars on the men’s international soccer scene and one underdog determined to make one of the biggest surprise runs in tournament history.
Portugal was the seventh favored side to win a round-of-16 match, as it thumped Switzerland 6-1 on Tuesday afternoon.
Portugal scored five of its goals without Cristiano Ronaldo on the field, a move that worked out better than manager Fernando Santos could have imagined.
Morocco will be Portugal’s quarterfinal opponent. The Atlas Lions are the only team left from outside Europe and South America in Qatar.
Morocco used its fantastic defense to force a penalty shootout with Spain. La Roja missed three of their PKs, while Morocco made three of its four spot kicks to advance.
Morocco 0 (3), Spain 0 (0)
Morocco continued its remarkable run in Qatar by becoming the fourth-ever African side, and first since 2010, to advance to the quarterfinals.
The Atlas Lions benefited from two saves by Yassine Bounou in the penalty shutout and one Spanish shot off the post.
Achraf Hakimi finished off the victory with a cheeky finish past Unai Simón.
Spain, as expected, dominated the possession battle, but it was wasteful in the final third. La Furia Roja attempted 13 shots, but only one of those attempts went on target.
The arrivals of Alvaro Morata and Pablo Sarabia did not help the Spanish, as Morocco remained firm in defense.
Morocco defended well for 120 minutes, like it has all tournament long. The Atlas Lions have not allowed a goal to an opposing player. Canada forced an own goal off them in the group stage.
Before Qatar, Morocco reached the round of 16 at the World Cup once in 1986. It has not gotten past the quarterfinals at the African Cup of Nations since it was runner-up in 2004.
Morocco will once again be a hefty underdog on Saturday when it goes head-to-head with another European side within close proximity of its borders in Portugal.
Portugal 6, Switzerland 1
Portugal turned in its best performance in Qatar without Cristiano Ronaldo in the starting lineup. Ronaldo’s replacement, Gonçalo Ramos, turned in the breakout game of his young international career.
Ramos, who plays for Benfica in the Portuguese league, produced a hat trick to power Portugal into the final eight.
Ramos scored his first World Cup goal in the 17th minute by blasting a shot over Yann Sommer. The Swiss goalkeeper looked bewildered that the shot went over him from such a close angle.
The 21-year-old striker finished off the victory with a pair of second-half goals in the 51st and 67th minutes.
Pepe, Raphaël Guerreiro and Rafael Leão were the other three scorers for Portugal.
Pepe became the oldest player to score a goal in a men’s World Cup knockout-round game at the age of 39.
Switzerland managed one goal in a very brief comeback attempt. Manuel Akanji tapped in from close range in the 58th minute.
The Swiss have now been knocked out in the round of 16 in five of their last six World Cup appearances dating back to 1994.
Friday, December 9
Brazil vs. Croatia (10 am ET, Fox)
Netherlands vs. Argentina (2 pm ET, Fox)
Saturday, December 10
Morocco vs. Portugal (10 am ET, Fox)
England vs. France (2 pm ET, Fox)